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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Honored for Service

Eric and Mollie Packer Recognized for Commitment to Education


August 19, 2020

There certain occupations in life that are defined as service, interactive with the community. Others, it takes a little looking outside of the box, or deeper in the heart. For some people, working in a service industry doesn't quite fill the niche. Filling that is about following the passion that involves passions outside of the business.

When a cause is personal, it also become passionate. When the passion translates to community involvement, things get done, and sometimes people receive credit they were not seeking.

Eric and Mollie Packer, managers of the Sidney and Ogallala Dairy Queen stores, are frequently involved in community events; especially education, specifically special education programs.

“We do a lot of fundraising for special education,” Eric said recently. “Both of my sons have autism. It's a cause that's close to my heart.”

Following their passion resulted in being awarded the NASES (Nebraska Association of Special Education Supervisors) Friend of Special Education Award. The statewide award was presented to the Packers in April during a Zoom meeting. They were recognized by the Sidney School Board on Monday, Aug. 10. They were invited to the meeting to speak about autism. Little did they know, the real reason for the invitation was to recognize them for their support of special education.

“I really had no words,” said “Mollie Packer. “It is so humbling.”

Whitney Hurt, Central Elementary School Principal and Special Education Director, said the Packers are the first Sidney recipients of the award.

Eric Packer said they don't do the projects to be recognized. Their involvement is because they feel it is the right thing to do, and to be good stewards of what they have been given.

“The more you do with God's blessings, the more you'll get returned,” he said.

They often have teacher nights at the Dairy Queen, a period of time where teachers are at the store and a portion of the proceeds go to school programs. They have also hosted autism awareness events. Their fundraising efforts have resulted in financing programs including “Auggie's Bag.” In a letter from Sidney Schools Superintendent Jay Ehler, the Packers are credited with bringing an Auggie's Hope program to Sidney. Auggie's Hope is a program designed to advocate for Autism. The program is designed to teach first responders, teachers, law enforcement officers, how to interact with people on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

A program was held in September 2019 at Sidney High School. Auggie's Hope includes Auggie's Bag, a resource of resources to help calm an ASD person during a moment of crisis.

He and his wife Mollie stress they don't get involved in the many projects for the recognition. It is also not just about their family.

“Anything that benefits our sons, benefits all the other kids, too,” he said.

Mollie added the recognition is not just theirs; it is for the store and the employees who keep it running.

“This award isn't just about us. Our employees — we couldn't do it without them,” she said.

The Packers commended the extra time managers and employees commit while the Packers are involved in school and community projects.


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